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Tablet PC sales climb in April

HP dominates

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Sales of tablet PCs are chugging along, despite a dip in growth during April.

Context, the UK-based research firm, says that tablet PC sales through indirect channels in Europe's seven biggest economies were up nearly 14 percent in April over March. Growth in April is healthy but significantly lower than March's, when tablet PC sales were up almost 25 per cent from February.

Tablet PCs are similar to laptops in terms of size, weight and power, but what sets them apart is their mobility and ease of use on the go. Tablet PCs are far more powerful than their PDA cousins, and easier than a laptop to use in a meeting, while standing, or on an airplane. Instead of the "clam shell" design that most laptops have, tablet PCs consist of a flat-screen and no keyboard.

"April's growth rate of 13.9 percent must be a disappointment for tablet PC vendors in Europe after the March 24.6 percent surge in sales," commented Context senior partner Jeremy Davies. "At least as far as Europe goes, this must lend some weight to reports coming out from Taiwan that component orders from the major tablet PC vendors have been reduced based on lowered sales expectations."

Nevertheless, during the first four months of the year, sales rose every month, with the biggest surge in March. In January sales were up 4.7 percent and in February sales rose 5.2 percent.

Context also said that of the major tablet PC makers, HP dominates with about 74 percent of sales through the channel, followed by Toshiba with almost 14 percent of the market. Acer comes in third with just over 9 percent of the market and FSC rounds out the top four with a near 3 percent share.

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Although the numbers from Context appear cheerful, it is worth bearing in mind what rival research firm IDC has said of the tablet PC market. Its first quarter numbers are roughly in line with Context's, but IDC notes that despite the high growth rates, less than 30,000 tablet PCs were shipped in EMEA in the first three months of the year.

For the quarter as a whole, IDC says that sales were up 33 percent compared with the previous quarter, but it warned that high prices are putting off the broader market. The company said that as prices fall, and as designs and software improve, tablet PCs should become more popular.

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